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"How to practice" - efficient practice routine

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User ImageOlmonatron
4:47 am Tuesday
August 26, 2008
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So I´ve been playing guitar for around 10 years now and I´m starting to consider teaching on the side. I just came up with a long explanation of an efficient way to practice so I can offer an inspiring ´1st lesson´ when I actually start teaching. Let me know what you think:

1) determine what you want to learn.
improv, songwriting, chords, speed, double picking, tapping, sweep picking, solo lines, melody lines, sight reading, scales, learning popular songs, etc.
Break it down into categories like this and determine which of these categories you need to work on. you could even rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in each category so you have a list of "stats" that you can look at to more accurately determine what you need work on.

2) find material to practice.
books, magazines, tabs, forums, songs, etc. don´t just play stuff you already know. or at least don´t count "jamming" time as your practice time. they are two separate things. if you want to be efficient, keep pushing yourself to learn fresh new things for at least one solid hour every day. or maybe work in half hour increments and give yourself a break for "jam-time". whatever feels comfortable.
don´t expect everything to be in one place or in one book. you´re going to end up with a huge collection of websites, magazines, books, instructional videos, hand-written tabs, etc. but always be skeptical of online scams. if you´re really looking to spend money, you´d be better off cruising the local music shop for books and instructional videos.

3) organize your materials into sub-category folders.
i read an article about how john petrucci does this, and it makes sense. if you have a specific subject to work on that day, it´s really easy to just grab the corresponding folder and start working. or sometimes you´ll go on an internet search and you come across boat loads of material that you can´t get to right away. just save it to the corresponding folder and it will be easy to find later. the more organized you are, the more efficient you can be.
this applies to the cleanliness of your desk as well. if you have to move a bunch of stuff around and search your room for cables in order to start playing guitar, you´re less likely to play. but if it´s just sitting there next to a clean desk ready to play with a bookcase full of organized notes and materials, you´ll end up playing more simply because it´s more accessible.

4) schedule time to practice and what to practice.
find at least one hour every day to work on these things. if you have to skip a day, try to make up for it the next day. try to maintain the same number of practice hours each week.
there are a few options from here, you can work on one subject until you get bored of it, or you can schedule to switch subjects throughout the week.
if you figure out your top 7 subjects you want to improve on, work on a different one each day of the week. now it´s only a matter of time until you´ve improved in all of those areas!
it´s frustrating to see a guitarist who only works on one aspect for months at a time and then finds out later that he´s severely lacking in other areas. you want to be well-rounded, so work on different subjects at different times throughout the week and you´ll gradually get better at everything.
the worst thing you can do is sit down at the guitar with no aim. you get frustrated and overwhelmed with the question "what do i practice?", and you just end up playing stuff you already know. but if you schedule ahead of time things to work on, you won´t lose focus as easily.

5) practice logs. keep track of your dedicated practice time and watch yourself grow.
there are calender programs that work great for this or you could just write it on a piece of paper each week.
write how long you practiced each day and what you worked on.
at the beginning of each week, write down a list of objectives that you want to accomplish. then cross them out as you go.
tally up the total number of hours at the end of each week and compare this to your past logs. if you can look back on how much time you put into practicing, it´s much easier to determine how to be more efficient in the future. and it´s inspiring to see all the work you´ve done and the things you´ve accomplished when you look back at these practice logs.
User ImageMike Lindyn
10:12 pm Tuesday
August 26, 2008
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Awesome suggestions Olmonatron, great post.

I think starting to teach would be a great idea. I made my way through college teaching and not only did it pay the bills (well kinda Blush ) but it also made me a better player Jump. Teaching can be a blast but it can also be kinda challenging. Give it a shot you may love it.
User Imagejeremy
9:29 pm Wednesday
August 27, 2008
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I like the stats idea and the practice log. I should have a practice log myself. I never even thought of doing that. I log all of my physical activities but never the mental ones. Well, I don´t have many mental activities but guitar is definitely one. I like that idea a lot.
Defualt User ImagePareshtar
7:07 am Tuesday
July 26, 2011
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Pretty neat ... I have been using your page daily, and have even saved it. thanks a ton!! it really helps..
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User ImageT.A.Z
8:49 am Wednesday
July 27, 2011
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I somehow managed to overlook this so thank you first goes to Pareshtar for bringing this back to the top on the front page so I noticed it. Get posting around here more mate let´s get the site more active again.

Second, Olmonatron, great post! Don´t know if you eventually started teaching (would like to know if you did?) but the advice you´ve given there is brilliant. I might start looking at doing some of these things myself, I struggle now that I´m a Dad to A) find the time to practice and B) Remember what the hell I looked at last time out haha so the idea of a journal and folders for certain lessons/features etc are both great ideas.

One thing to add to all of this, and it´s something I spoke about in my lesson about learning cover songs, is to not spend too much time working/practicing and learning something. The mind only processes so much at one time and if you spend hours and hours and hours slaving over something in one day it´ll get you nowhere. You´ll be fed up of what your learning and chances are won´t bother using what your learning because of that. SO try to limit your practice times where you learn something to an hour maybe an hour and a half, to maximise what you learn.

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